Showing posts with label Anti Gay Russia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anti Gay Russia. Show all posts

November 7, 2019

When a Gay Show Opens in Russia, Blasphemy and Bombs also get Into The Act


Daria Litvinova

 Whenever the play “Out of the Closet” is performed, Russian drama company Teatr.Doc has to take extra precautions: the audiences’ passports are checked to ensure everyone is at least 18 and the process is filmed to prove the law has been followed.

There is no nudity and few obscene words in the play, which is about Russian gay men coming out to their parents. But it is an offense to distribute “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships” to minors under Russian law. 

“Teatr.Doc is like a besieged fortress today,” Anastasia Patlay, director of the documentary play, told the audience before the lights were dimmed to start the show in Moscow.

“We are not happy about it. But, apparently, it’s a symptom of the situation we live in.”

Fearless Teatr.Doc is no stranger to controversy. In 2014, the theater was evicted from its site after staging a satire that lampooned President Vladimir Putin and production about the death in jail of whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky.

Its latest battle is to tell lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) stories in Russia, where homosexuality was a criminal offense until 1993 and classed as a mental illness until 1999.

LGBT+ plays, films, and books have been censored and attacked and violence toward gay people has increased since 2013 when the Kremlin adopted the “gay propaganda” law as part of a drive to defend what Putin called Russia’s “traditional values”.

“We comply with the law,” Patlay said. “The play is marked as appropriate for 18+, and we check people’s passports every time. But I never rule out getting in trouble with it.” 

Trouble came in August when anti-gay protesters attempted to disrupt “Out of the Closet” by repeatedly calling the police to the theater and picketing the event.

One evening performance was interrupted when a minor with a fake ID was planted in the audience and hecklers accused Teatr.Doc of breaking the law, said Patlay, who was taken to the police station for questioning, along with the 15-year-old.

SERB, a vigilante group that describes itself as “pro-Kremlin”, said on Russian social network VK that it disrupted the play, which its leader Gosha Tarasevich said was “a cancerous abscess on the body of Russia”.

“We don’t want Russian culture to be associated with garbage, and Teatr.Doc is promoting garbage,” Tarasevich said in a phone interview. 

Such incidents are not unusual in Russia.

Russian Orthodox religious activists invaded the stage during a performance in 2013 of gay Irish playwright Oscar Wilde’s “An Ideal Husband”, which they said was blasphemous for featuring a gay priest.

Three years later, demonstrators in St. Petersburg tried to disrupt “All Shades of Blue”, a play about gay men, first by urging the audience not to enter the theater and then by reporting a bomb in the building after the show had started.


While the “gay propaganda” law does not require LGBT+ content to be removed from films and plays - merely for them to be clearly marked as suitable only for over 18s - film distributors sometimes choose to delete provocative scenes.

In May, Russian film distributor Central Partnership edited out all the gay sex scenes in “Rocketman”, the Elton John biopic, following its general release in the country.

In a statement, the company said it did so to “comply with the Russian legislation”.

A spokesman for the ministry of culture said it screens all films for compliance with Russian law before issuing a distribution certificate.

“The ministry does not hand out instructions to cut any specific scenes out,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

But companies often decide not to take the risk with LGBT+ content, said film critic Ksenia Ilyina, a judge at Russia’s independent LGBT+ film festival, Side by Side, which has taken place in Moscow and St. Petersburg since 2008. 

“They know that if anything goes wrong, their operation may be suspended or fines may be imposed, and no one wants that,” she said. “It’s all about taking fewer risks and inviting fewer troubles.”

Side by Side’s founder Manny de Guerre said it is targeted by pro-Kremlin and religious groups almost every year.

“This year, we had a really difficult festival ... Three bomb threats, several nationalist Orthodox groups causing problems, gathering outside the cinema theater, threatening to throw green dye on to people,” she said. 

“Two young men got into a screening and threw liquid ammonia - and we had to evacuate everyone.”

The chemical compound can cause burns and blindness.

De Guerre was shocked because Side by Side was on a list of international film festivals officially approved by the ministry of culture under a new vetting system introduced last year.

“But apparently that made our opponents even more enraged,” she said. 

Tarasevich told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that SERB was one of several groups that protested outside the festival.

“LGBT people don’t irritate us as long as they don’t promote their inclinations,” the activist said.

“If they just quietly make their same-sex love, God bless them, because one can’t go against their nature - even though it is against traditional Russian values.

“But when they’re trying to impose their views through their so-called art on others, we protest.” 

While there is no evidence that anti-gay groups have ties to the authorities, LGBT+ activists believe they are encouraged by the Kremlin’s stance.

“The homophobic policies Russian authorities implement essentially breed these conservative groups,” said Svetlana Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian LGBT Network, a campaign group.

“No one orders them (to disrupt LGBT+ events), but they feel like it’s their duty to defend Russia, to defend traditional values ... It’s a scary situation to be in - when you go to a movie and can end up being attacked.”

October 11, 2019

Russia is Censoring LGBT On Line Groups

Kyle Knight 

Researcher, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program

LGBT rights activists carry the rainbow flag during a May Day rally in St. Petersburg, Russia.
LGBT rights activists carry the rainbow flag during a May Day rally in St. Petersburg, Russia, May 1, 2018.
© 2018 AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky
A Saint Petersburg court ruled last week that two lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) social media groups violated Russia’s notorious “gay propaganda” law and ordered the sites shuttered.
The groups – “Russian LGBT Community” and “Russia LGBT Network” – were hosted 
on VKontakte, a Russian social media platform similar to Facebook.
The court judgments state that the incriminating material was imaged representing same-sex relationships. The judge deemed this content as responsible for “rejecting family values
promoting non-traditional sexual relations and fostering disrespect for parents and/
or other family members.”
Under the “gay propaganda” ban, adopted in 2013, portraying same-sex relations as socially acceptable is illegal. The rationale is that such information supposedly threatens 
the well-being of children.
The law has been used to target peaceful public protests, individuals’ social media posts, 
teachers, and Deti-404, a website providing psychosocial support for LGBT youth. 
It has been used to justify a criminal investigation of social workers who allowed a gay couple to adopt children, forcing the family to flee to the United States. Earlier this year, the European Court of Human Rights fined the government for using the law as the basis for denying registration to two LGBT groups.
Last year, Human Rights Watch wrote to the education ministry highlighting our research findings, which show that the law exacerbates the daily hostilities LGBT youth face and curtails the ability for mental health providers to intervene. The ministry’s response ignored concerns about violence 
and discrimination, and said the government was responsible for fostering “the spiritual and moral values of the people of the Russian Federation.”
In the new judgments, the court insisted that the law was protective of children’s rights. 
The decision even made oblique references to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 
claiming the government is protecting a child “from information and materials harmful to his
A warped interpretation to be sure. Not to mention a legally insubstantial justification for its ruling.
Far from offering protection, the law endangers LGBT youth. This latest ruling for censorship is just another example of LGBT discrimination.

October 6, 2019

Gay Parents Apply for Permanent Asylum in the US After Harassment and Threats to Take Away The Kids

Gay Parents Who Fled Russia Seek Asylum in America

"We know Trump's unfair and racist attitude towards all of the LGBTQ community and towards asylum seekers. But the couple is white so they might have a shot."(Adam)

Two gay parents from Russia have applied for asylum in the United States following harassment from Russian authorities and threats their children could be taken away.

This summer Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev took their adopted sons and fled Russia, where they had lived for over a decade. The decision to leave was made under advisement from their attorney, as Out previously reported. 

The couple, who married in Denmark in 2016, had been raising their two children with no problem for years. But when their son, Yuri, was hospitalized for a stomach ache, doctors learned they were gay. The hospital’s medical team reported the family, and Russia's Investigative Committee began harassing the couple, as well as investigating the social workers who facilitated their adoptions. 

Authorities said it was negligent for those social workers to allow the adoption to go ahead. The parents were ordered to report for a “pre-investigation check” into their lives, and their kids were forced to undergo a physical exam.

Things further escalated from there. An attorney advised them to spend some time outside of Russia, lest their kids be taken into state custody.

“A representative from the adoption center then called and asked us to voluntarily put the children in a rehabilitation center until the results of the examination were available,” Vaganov told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. “My lawyer told me, 'Now you have to leave the country.' 

Vaganov said he and his husband left Russia “less than two hours later.”

Vaganov and Yerofeyev decided that it was unsafe to return to Russia after someone ransacked their home and they eventually settled in the United States. According to the Russian LGBTQ+ groups Coming Out and Stimul the couple’s children “are studying in America and are successfully adapting to new living conditions with the start of the school year.” 

Now the family is applying for asylum to stay in the U.S. permanently. If they are denied, they could have their children taken away, as well as facing further persecution and harassment.

Same-sex couples have been barred from adopting children in Russia since 2012, the year before it passed an anti-gay “propaganda” law banning the spread of information on “non-traditional sexual relationships" to youth. That law is widely seen to have been imposed as retribution for a U.S. law that prevents human rights abusers from entering the country.

Russia’s “propaganda” law has been deemed to be improper by the European Court of Human Rights on at least three occasions. That court has limited authority to enforce its decisions, however.

Despite the looming threat of what happens if they return to Russia, the couple may have difficulty obtaining asylum in the United States. Though millions of people have been displaced by war, famine, climate disaster, and oppressive regimes, the Trump administration plans to block record numbers of asylum seekers

September 5, 2019

After Appearing in An Anti Gay Hit List She is Found Murdered At Her Apt. in St. Petersburg

Image result for Yelena Grigoryeva
 Yelena Grigoryeva

When Yelena Grigoryeva’s body was discovered on July 21, it had been lying in some bushes outside her apartment building in St Petersburg for 12 hours.
That same day, the city’s investigative committee opened a criminal case into the murder of the 41-year-old LGBTQ+ activist. On July 25, investigators announced the arrest of a 38-year-old man from Kyrgyzstan on suspicion of the murder. Another suspect, known to this man, was detained on August 1. Police investigators claim that Grigoryeva had known her killer and that the two had been drinking together on the evening before the murder. Grigoryeva had allegedly died in the course of a “sudden domestic dispute” with her killer, during which she was stabbed at least eight times in the back and face, dying from her injuries at the scene.
Grigoryeva’s friends and colleagues have been quick to share their grief and anger on social media, along with their suspicions about the police’s account of events. They suspect that she was killed for her activism; specifically her LGBTQ+ activism. Their comments were posted under the Russian hashtag #ЗащититеЛюдейОтПилы and the English hashtag #ProtectPeopleFromSaw.
I don’t believe that Yelena Grigoryeva was brutally murdered by some regular migrant worker, given that not long before her murder she had received threats from the homophobic non-people from the homophobic Saw group.
I demand a thorough investigation. The state should not appease murderers. #ЗащититеЛюдейОтПилы
— ᴀʀɪɴᴀ ᴅᴀᴢᴇ (@onprendra) July 23, 2019
Many were quick to point out that Grigoryeva’s name had featured on what appears to be a hit list from the homophobic website “Saw Against LGBT.”
The photojournalist George Markov writes:
In St Petersburg there is still active pressure on activists. If earlier it was arrests and criminal charges, now it’s murder. The political activist Yelena Grigoryeva, a supporter of LGBT views and simply a person with an active civic position, has been killed. […] And I also want to remind you that Yelena was on the list of the homophobic site ‘Saw,’ which has been threatening LGBT-activists throughout the country for a long time already.”
– George Markov, Facebook, 22 July 2019
While her colleagues said that Grigoryeva had reported violent threats to law enforcement before, the city’s branch of the Ministry of Internal Affairs insisted that she had filed reports related to “various conflict situations” – but not death threats. The St Petersburg activist Dinar Idrisov, who knew Grigoryeva personally, rejected this account:
Yelena and her lawyer had reported on violence and threats [of violence] to law enforcement agencies, but there was no discernible reaction. It was like they said “If they kill you – call us.” She wasn’t able to make that call.
– Dinar Idrisov, Facebook, 22 July 2019
Earlier this month, screenshots from the “Saw Against LGBT” website began circulating online after the group (named after the American horror movie franchise “Saw”) posted an “anniversary” message on July 1. Featuring a picture of a noose, the post outlined plans for anti-LGBTQ+ acts and promised “dangerous and cruel gifts” to dozens of Russian LGBTQ+ individuals, activists, allies, and journalists. Yelena Grigoryeva herself was among those who saw the group’s message containing her name. She even shared a screenshot of the threatening post on Facebook on July 3. 

“Saw against LGBT” declares its five-year “anniversary,” promising a “new season” in its campaign against LGBT people. Website screenshot, taken from Yelena Grigoryeva’s Facebook page.
The list also named the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta and Radio Svoboda, RFE/RL’s Russian language service, as well as several civil society organizations. The Yekaterinburg LGBT Resource Centre also reported receiving a threatening email from “Saw” on July 16. The Resource Centre has formally requested that local police investigate the email as a hate crime, and has previously been successful in persuading courts in the Sverdlovsk region to issue fines for homophobic comments on social media.
Following complaints by the Yekaterinburg-based NGO, the “Saw” website was blocked on July 17. LGBTQ+ rights activists have apparently been trying to get the authorities to investigate who is behind the website since it first appeared in spring 2018. Furthermore, the site has been responsible for leaking personal data on activists and anybody knew or presumed to be LGBTQ+, and allegedly even offered to pay “gay-hunters” to attack people.
Grigoryeva’s death came as a shock to others whose names appeared on the “hit list.” On July 23, YouTube star Andrei Petrov shared his reaction on Instagram, stating that although he had initially dismissed the list as a “provocation,” Grigoryeva’s killing made him fear for his life. In a video the following day, Petrov shared the first threatening email he received from an alleged member of “Saw,” telling him to transfer money into a Sberbank account if he wanted to “avoid a gift.” 
On July 28, self-described “openly gay” Youtuber Zhenya Svetsky shared what he called his “last video” in response to Grigoryeva’s death, saying he feared for his life because his name had also appeared on the list. In an accompanying Instagram post, he explained that he had been receiving threats from a member of “Saw” since February and that on June 20 he was given a month to leave Russia.
Recent days have also seen international support for an investigation into the suspicious murder. The German Foreign Office condemned Grigoryeva’s murder on Twitter, writing that they “expect a complete and transparent investigation of the circumstances, particularly whether her murder was related to her work for LGBTI rights.” On July 24, protestors also gathered outside of the Russian Embassy in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, to call for an investigation into the activist’s killing.
According to the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, a Ukrainian NGO, the appearance of more hate speech against Grigoryeva online in response to her murder is further evidence that she may have been targeted for her activism. For example, self-proclaimed anti-gay “civic activist” Timur Bulatov referred to Grigoryeva’s murder as a “moral Jihad” and asked “who’s next?” on social media.
Nikita Tomilov, a lawyer and human rights activist, shared one of Bulatov’s posts with the words:
Here’s a message I just received today on Wattsap [sic] from Timur Bulatov about the murder of Yelena Grigoryeva. I am more than certain that Bulatov has a connection to this murder. I now call on all LGBT organisations and human rights defenders to file a statement requesting an investigation be opened into Bulatov’s involvement in the “Saw” group.
– lowayerTomilov, Facebook, 23 July 2019
Social media posts dedicated to Grigoryeva’s memory also include photos demonstrating her extensive involvement in activism. After moving to St Petersburg from her hometown of Veliky Novgorod, Grigoryeva became a prominent member of the Alliance of Heterosexuals and LGBT People for Equal Rights, an organization defending LGBTQ+ rights in Russia. Grigoryeva also opposed Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014, speaking out on behalf of Ukrainian political prisoners jailed in Russia and against repressions against Crimea’s Tatar population. More recently, she demonstrated in support of the Khachaturyan sisters – three teenagers who are being charged with murder for killing their father after suffering years of physical and sexual abuse. 
However, Grigoryeva’s background has also prompted debate over her political leanings. Grigoryeva was known to have supported nationalist causes in the past, and a July 2016 photo Grigoryeva posted to the popular Russian social network VKontakte displays a tattoo on her arm, which she described in the comments as “a matryoshka with a machine gun and the Odal rune.” Although the Odal rune is a symbol associated with Nazi movements, Grigoryeva’s colleagues claim that her political leanings had shifted towards more “right liberal” views over the years
Whether these attacks, threats and now the murder are linked to her political views, which changed from nationalist to right-wing liberal and LGBT, to her undoubtedly active lifestyle, character and patterns of behaviour – is absolutely unimportant. Every person has the right to life. And the Russian state was obliged to guarantee her the right to life
– Dinar Idrisov, Facebook, 22 July 2019
On July 23, dozens of people, including Grigoryeva’s friends and colleagues, took part in “solitary picket” protests in St Petersburg to mourn her death. Their demand is that the authorities seriously consider the idea that Grigoryeva was murdered for her political views. The next day, LGBTQ+ rights activists from  Vykhod – a St Petersburg organization (whose name is translated on their site as “Coming Out”) offering free psychological and legal support to the LGBTQ+ community – formally requested that police investigate the “Saw” group’s possible involvement in Grigoryeva’s death.
Grigoryeva was buried at a village cemetery in Russia’s Novgorod region on July 28.
But Saw’s story might not be over yet. “They think that they’ve blocked our site and that now we won’t be able to find an audience, that we won’t be able to attract the people. We’ll start soon. Everybody’s interested to find out who’s next,” reads a message posted on July 31 by one of the group’s Telegram channels.

Global Voices

August 6, 2019

Gay Russian Activist Fears For More LGBT Purges Back home


DRONTEN REFUGEE CENTER, THE NETHERLANDS — Artyom Shitukhin decided last March that enough was enough. Following what he described as months of harassment by police, and expulsion from the university in his hometown of Pyatigorsk, the LGBT activist bought a one-way ticket to Morocco with a stopover in Amsterdam, where he got off the plane and requested asylum.
Speaking to The Moscow Times at an immigration center in rural Holland, Artyom, 20, said he feels safe in his new country. He has been granted Dutch residence status and is looking forward to attending his first Pride parade this weekend in Amsterdam. 
While life is good for Artyom, he can’t stop thinking about what happened earlier this month back in his native Russia.
On July 21, Yelena Grigoriyeva, a vocal LGBT rights advocate, was found with multiple stab wounds and signs of strangulation near her home in St. Petersburg. 
"We used to text a lot," Shitukhin said. "She was always there to give me and other members of the LGBT community in Russia advice."
Artyom Shitukhin says he feels safe in The Netherlands but worries for his friends back in Russia.
For Shitukhin, the activist’s murder felt personal. Last month, along with Grigoriyeva and other prominent LGBT activists, he was named on a "death list" circulated online by anti-LGBT group Pila (Saw).  
The group, inspired by the "Saw" horror movie franchise, calls for violence against members of the Russian LGBT community and posts their private information on social media, including their addresses and phone numbers.
The group first came to the attention of human rights defenders in April 2018, when it claimed credit for a series of attacks on members of the LGBT community in Russia's Bashkiria region. It also claims to have played an active role in a series of “gay purges” in Russia’s Chechnya region that made headlines across the world. 
So far, however, neither human rights organizations nor the authorities have been able to establish if Pila has actually played a role in acts of violence against sexual minorities in Russia. 
Shortly after Grigoriyeva's murder, Russia's Investigative Committee said it had evidence to show her death was the result of a domestic dispute, and arrested 38-year-old Kyrgyz man. On Thursday, investigators announced that they arrested another suspect, a 27-year old man from St.Petersburg who has reportedly confessed to the murder.
Grigoriyeva's fellow human rights activists believe the authorities are not doing enough to investigate the possible motives for the murder.
"We have no direct evidence to suggest Pila or any other hate group was responsible for the murder, but the investigators are clearly not looking at all the theories," said Igor Kochetkov, the head of the St. Petersburg-based LGBT Network.
Kochetkov, who also appeared on Pila’s list, fears that by not getting to the bottom of what happened to Grigoriyeva, the authorities are “normalizing violence against gay groups,” which could have “critical consequences." 
Nikita Tomilov, 22, a prominent LGBT activist from Yekaterinburg who is also on Pila’s list believes the timing of Grigoriyeva's murder is suspicious. 
"First the list shows up and a month later she is dead," he said.
Tomilov wasn't too worried when he first saw Pila's post online.
"When a friend sent me the 19 names on the list I was extremely skeptical it would actually lead to anything. We get these threats quite often and I didn't think it was dangerous. But damn, now there are only 18 of us, and I am frightened," he said.
Tomilov has started avoiding public spaces and decided to work from home after he was followed on two separate occasions after Grigoriyeva's murder. 
He is planning to leave Russia soon.
Following complaints from Kochetkov and others to the police, Pila's website was taken offline two weeks ago. But activists say they are still receiving threatening social media messages and emails. 
In online screenshots seen by The Moscow Times, Pila vows to inflict violence on both Shitukhin and Tomilov. In one Instagram story, the group says it has "chosen" Tomilov as its next target. 
LGBT activist Nikita Tomilov says the anti-LGBT group Pila has 'chosen' him as its next target 
According to Kochetkov, hate groups like Pila are able to operate in Russia with the tacit approval of the authorities.
He said homophobia has been swelling in Russia since the 2013 passing of the so-called gay propaganda law, which prohibits behavior that could be seen as promoting homosexuality to minors, including same-sex kissing in public or carrying a rainbow flag.
"The law has really legitimized fringe groups like Pila. The biggest danger of these groups isn't that they kill someone. By singling out people they inspire and help lunatics across the country to take matters in their own hands."
According to LGBT Network research, 90% of all violence against sexual minorities goes unrecorded in the country, as victims do not believe the police will help them. 
Shitukhin and Tomilov said they felt "abandoned" by the police that were meant to protect them.
Tomilov said that when he first approached police in Yekaterinburg to voice his concerns about Pila they told him he shouldn't defend "people that are like animals."
Shitukhin’s distrust of the authorities is more profound — he said his correct address appeared on Pila's website shortly after he went to the police to report the group, suggesting that the group has ties to officials. The Moscow Times was unable to verify this independently.
For now, despite Pila’s ongoing threats, Kochkarov believes it is important to keep calm and not let the group “attain its goal of sowing panic."
"As Roosevelt once said, ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’ We have nothing to be embarrassed about. Love is a beautiful thing," he said.

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